HPA No. 1984-448 (In re. The Palais Royal; McLachlen Building)
- Case Name: Application by Square 345 Limited Partnership
- Location of Property: 1913 G Street, N.W. (Lot 800, Square 345); 1001 G Street, N.W. (Lot 36, Square 345)
- Date of Decision: Not provided in the Order.
- Hearing Date: September 25, 1984
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition and new construction permits for the 1913 G Street site, and a permit for alteration for the preservation and adaptive reuse for the 1001 G Street site
- Date of Case Summary: 11/26/2014
- Issue Area(s): Mayor’s Agent-Procedural, Special Merit-Special Features, Necessary in the Public Interest
Summary of Decision:
345 Limited Partnership applied for demolition, new construction, and alteration permits for a mixed use project (the “Project”). It sought permission under Sections 5, 6, and 8 of the Historic Landmark and Historic District Preservation Act (the “Act”) to demolish an existing structure known as Palais Royal, which is located at 1913 G Street, N.W. as well as new construction on that site. The application also involved alterations for the preservation and adaptive reuse of another structure known as the McLachlen Building located at 1001 G Street, N.W. The Historic Preservation Review Board recommended denying the permit application to raze the Palais Royal; however, it supported the issuance of an alteration permit. The application was referred to the Mayor’s Agent for review to determine whether the requested demolition should be permitted.
345 Limited Partnership claimed that the Project was necessary in the public interest on two grounds: (1) to construct a project of “special merit”; and (2) it was consistent with the purposes of the Act. Regarding special merit, the applicant claimed that the Project (1) featured land planning that “further[ed] the city’s goals and objectives for downtown; (2) contained “exemplary architecture; and (3) would provide economic benefits including jobs and increased tax revenue. Regarding the Project’s consistency with the Act, applicant argued that the Project would (1) “protect and enhance the city’s attraction to visitors and the support and stimulus to the economy thereby provided,” (2) “retain and enhance historic landmarks in the District of Columbia and encourage their adaptation for currentuse”; and (3) “encourage the restoration of historic landmarks.” Applicant provided evidence showing, among other things, that preservation of the Palais Royal is fundamentally infeasible for viable contemporary use because it does not meet current life-safety and code requirements, and because of its high and varying floor-to-ceiling heights.
The Mayor’s Agent concluded that the Project was necessary in the public interest because it was a project of special merit based on specific features of land planning, such as the combination of retail, hotel and office space in close proximity to the convention center and mass transit. The Mayor’s Agent thus concluded that it was necessary to demolish the Palais Royal to construct a project of special merit, and required the issuance of the demolition permit to construct the Project.
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
The Review Board recommended denial of the permit application to raze the Palais Royal but granted alteration permits. The Mayor’s Agent found that the Project was one of “special merit” pursuant to Section 3(k) of D.C. Law 2-144 and that retention of the Palais Royal is not feasible in light of the numerous design problems caused by the structural configuration of the building. The Mayor’s Agent gave limited weight to the testimony and drawings of the party in opposition, the D.C. Preservation League, noting that the party in opposition failed to present expert testimony which could have substantiated that party’s allegations and also failed to rebut applicant’s evidence that this was a project of special merit.
Project of Special Merit – Specific Features of Land Planning:
The Mayor’s Agent stated that the findings of fact demonstrate that the Applicant’s application is one of special merit by virtue of specific features of land planning. Section 3(k) of D.C. Law 2-144 defines “special merit” as a plan or building having significant benefits to he District of Columbia or the community by virtue of exemplary architecture, specific features of land planning, or social or other benefits having a high priority for community services. The Mayor’s Agent held that the objective of the project is “to create a mix of different land uses that will attract and serve a variety of users, ensuring an active and productive downtown at different times of the day and night.” Also, the combination of retail, hotel and office space in close proximity to the convention center and mass transit further illustrate the specific features of land planning.
Necessary in the Public Interest:
The Mayor’s Agent concluded that the application “is necessary in the public interest,” because it was a project of special merit, and it was necessary to demolish the Palais Royal to construct the project.
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